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By Godson Mande
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It is amazing how things change so fast in the political landscape of Bayelsa State. Just last month we conducted an opinion poll to find out in empirical forms, the popularity of the Candidates lined up for the February 2012 governorship polls in Bayelsa State. Even this study team was not prepared for the shocking outcome. The result showed that the incumbent Governors popularity had taken a nosedive after the disputed primaries of the PDP in the State. However, it confirmed the relative acceptance of the winner Seriake Dickson who remained the top runner in the State for the coverted prize. We noticed to our amazement the astronomical rise of the Change Advocacy party candidate Dr Imoro Kubor who rose six clear points to become the second runner up. With Election two months away, we predicted that this candidate might become front-runner if he maintained this momentum and if the events in PDP were not resolved as quickly as possible.

Today after the results of the second opinion poll trickled in last night, our former prediction ran true. Dr Kubor of the little known CAPhad gone into a comfortable lead over Seriake Dickson of the PDP .The new poll shows that Dr Kubor moved from 8 points to 16 while Dickson moved up just three points from 9 points to 12. Famous Daunemigba of the CPCwas third with 5 points moving up two points while the ACNBarrister Okara has 4 points to come fourth. The latest entrant into the rating is APGA's Morris Maxwell at two points. Despite his disqualification in PDP the incumbent, Governor Timipre Sylva moved down a further two points to occupy the fifth position with one point. The other candidates remain unrated.

Sampling for this poll shows marked improvement from the last one. Again, here Questionaires surveyed opinion of likely voters taken at random from the eight local government councils. The sample size is 80, arrayed under the following parameters of occupation, locale, age, and gender. For the occupation, the two categories are simply Business and worker. For local: it is urban or rural. Age is categorised into Youth-below 30 years or old- above 30 years. Finally, gender is between male and female. We tried to balance the sample sizes of each category to 50:50. In order words while our last poll was skewed 70:30 on gender, this one is equal for both men and women aas other categories. We have overcome previous shortcomings by reaching the eight local government areas unlike the last poll that saw most of the questionaires administered in Yenagoa, the state capital. For this reason, our margin of error has gone down significantly from 13% to 7%. This is not to say that we do not have other limitations. For instance, we reached two local governments through proxies. We could not be there physically for logistic reasons. Just like the last one we made sure those approached for the survey had voter's cards but we cannot say whether they would vote with them during elections. The Christmas holidays allowed us to reach many people in their country homes but the situation may change when the holidays is over and voters will have to muster the time, money and even security needed to travel home to vote.

The results show that CAPcandidate polled 32 votes to place tops with Dickson placed second position with 24 votes. Famous, the CPC candidate garnered 10 votes to place third followed closely by CAN's Barrister Okara with 8 votes to place 4th.APGA's Maxwell Morris got 4 votes in the 5thposition while the Incumbent Governor Timipre Sylva brought the rear with two votes.

Details of the local government results show that for instance Brass and Southern Ijaw has some notable indices. In Brass, 20% of the women polled are not interested in voting for they have lost interest in the process. Fifty percent said they would vote for individuals not the party while 30% said they would vote PDP. For the men here 60% would vote individual irrespective of party while the remaining would vote the ruling party PDP.Brass: because it has a large literate population with presence of Multinational corprations like the NLNG and AGIP. On the other hand, Southern Ijaw: for its large population probably the largest LGA in Nigeria. It has a large rural population with many agricultural establishments such as the Peremabiri Rice fields.Here wev have the only State owned University at Amasoma, The Niger Delta University and the Home of Former Governor Alamiesiegha. Here again 70 percent of both categories of voters consider change as incomplete without the PDP being voted out of power. However, 30 % insist they would vote PDP.

The survey employed simple questions to guage : 1.The Perception of the people about the electoral process 2.The Performance of the political parties 3.Grassroots support .4. Transparency. 5. Popularity of Party and candidate 6. Leadership. PDP candidate remained tops in terms of party popularity but lost so much in terms of transparency. The general perception of the people was that another party would have to rule since PDP had failed to fulfil its promises since 1999. Smaller relatively unknown parties like CAP and, CPCand APGA were top rated parties overall. The CAPcandidate received the highest polls because of his popularity in the grassroots; his leadership pedegree; transparency-approachability; but lost points in terms of party popularity. The PDP Candidate Honourable Dickson won more of his points from the party popularity and performance but lost points in terms of transparency and leadership pedegree. Dr Kubor also excelled in the area of grassroot support and the general perception of the people.

Analysts have tried to situate the reason for these near revolutionary changes in Bayelsa Statepolitics. Many see the disqualification of the incumbent Governor as responsible for the likely loss of the State to opposing political parties. Others dismiss this line of thought arguing that the state was heading for a change whether or not the incumbent contested. Some see the change as likely to be more far reaching against the ruling party, which is percieved as having wasted the political capital of the state for self-agradisement since the dawn of civil rule in 1999. The frustratiion of the people being palpable must have led the PDP to take mitigative steps to reduce their liability by denying the incumbent a second term ticket. Still there are those who see the long standing yearning for a technocrat to come to the reascue of the state in dare need of direction as likely to trigger a revolution of sorts whenever the people could identify one in their midst.

The funny aspect of this survey is the insistence of some respondents that they would vote for those names not in the list of present political parties. At Nembe, two respondents insisted they would not vote for the present crop of candidates. A female voter in Yenagoa insisted on Ben Murray Bruce while a male voter at Patani said it must be Timi Alaibe. After much education as to why these people would not appear on the Ballot, they preceded grudginly to choose from our list. It shows that the grassroots may require more education and awareness creation before the February 2012 polls to improve on informed voter participation in the process.

Despite the limitation of our study voter behaviour confirms recent events in the polity. The inability of the PDP candidate to raise his game is attributable to rancour within the ranks after the running mate Rear admiral John Jonah was announced leading to a faction dragging the candidate before the EFCC over allegations that seems to be more of an after thought. Nevertheless, it took its toll on the candidate by giving people the impression that nothing better could come out of the ruling party.On the other hand picking a popular running mate in Reverend O.J. Oworibo, a civil service guru has lifted further people's perception that he can be trusted to do the job. Ironically, the rumooured Sponsorship of A.C.N. by the incumbent governor has not lifted the fortunes of the A. C. N. in the polls beyond its fourth placing. This is an indication that the effect of the incumbency in the polls may be minimal when a less popular candidate is beneficiary.The people are wary of shifting from bondage to another. The general resolve appears to be that the people want to get it right this time around or lose it forever!

*Godson Mande, who heads a Social Science Study Group, writes from Port Harcourt.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Godson Mande and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."